John Karolefski

Editor-in-Chief, CPGmatters

John Karolefski is the publisher and editor-in-chief of, a twice-monthly ezine that focuses on building brands through retail. He is also the executive director of the Shopper Technology Institute (STI), the only trade organization for providers of technologies and solutions that engage shoppers and analyze their behavior. STI produces and hosts the annual LEAD Marketing Conference which focuses on Loyalty, Engagement, Analytics and Digital applications.

Karolefski, the former senior editor of Supermarket News, is the co-author of three books: “Consumer-Centric Category Management,” “All About Sampling and Demonstrations,” and “TARGET 2000: The Rising Ride of TechnoMarketing.”

  • Posted on: 10/19/2020

    Retailers need to prep for in-store COVID conflicts

    We have all seen news reports of arguments and slight violence already. I have personally seen shoppers without masks and others walking the wrong way down aisles in grocery stores. If the winter season brings a second wave of COVID-19, coupled with the annual flu, the stage would be set for more Corona conflicts in grocery stories. Grocers would be wise to train personnel on how to de-escalate and prevent conflicts. But they would be really smart to have a big security guard in each store to provide a more intimidating type of conflict resolution.
  • Posted on: 09/25/2020

    Walmart has changes in-store as the holidays near

    My in-store experience has been that two of three shoppers ignore one-way aisles. Will they be COVID-cautious during the holiday shopping season? My gut says 50-50. Hey, won't we have vaccine by Nov. 2?
  • Posted on: 09/21/2020

    Can Trader Joe’s continue thriving without delivery and curbside pickup?

    In April, Matt Sloan, TJ’s Vice President of Marketing said the reason the grocery store chain hadn't implemented curbside pickup, or even self-checkout, is a simple one. The company would rather invest in its employees, their most valuable resource. That sounds like TJ’s believes in outstanding customer service above all else.
  • Posted on: 09/09/2020

    Which COVID-19 consumer habits will stick?

    What shoppers "say" now and what they "do" after a vaccine and normal life returns can be entirely different. For example, a McKinsey survey from mid-June found 79 percent of U.S. consumers intend to continue or increase their usage of self-checkout in retail. That will not happen. Let's focus on self-checkout in supermarkets. Anecdotal evidence and some non-partisan surveys suggest that shoppers do not like self-checkout. Too often there are technical glitches and orders to "Please clear the bagging area" or "Help is on the way." I cannot imagine that 8 of ten shoppers will use self-checkout for a $200 order of groceries. Retailers who believe the McKinsey survey and add more self-checkout units to their stores would be making a mistake, in my opinion.
  • Posted on: 09/08/2020

    Has COVID-19 revealed pickup’s pain points?

    My experience with curbside pickup of groceries in the Cleveland suburbs shows how a worthwhile service can deteriorate. Months ago, the service was prompt and the orders were complete with perhaps a few substitutions. Nowadays, the orders are slower to deliver to the car. The substitutions or out-of-stocks are not reliable and I proved it. When told some branded items were out of stock or were substituted by another brand, I checked out the store myself. The items were indeed in stock. Why is the system deteriorating? The increased popularity of the service puts pressure on speed, so shelves are not checked thoroughly. Also, new employees, who are largely young people, are not trained well enough on what is in stock or where it is located in the store. I have called customer service to complain. The problems remain.
  • Posted on: 09/04/2020

    Will cities, and the retailers in them, bounce back?

    Cities will have the "potential" to be viable again once there is a vaccine for COVID and some time passes. But only if a bigger threat to the viability of cities is addressed: namely, less law and order. Sadly, it is possible to have increasing crime that cannot be contained by a leaner police force due to defunding, early retirements and the fact that fewer people will want to be police men and women. Such a scenario will have to be addressed or clear-thinking people won't want to live in such cities, even after COVID is history.
  • Posted on: 09/02/2020

    FAA gives permission for Amazon’s drones to take off

    This is another example of technology being available and real-life deployment being problematic. Sure, drones delivering medicine to remote areas would be good. But widespread deployment of drones to deliver everyday CPG products would make for crowded skies, dead birds, and a ton of regulations -- not to mention target practice for bored and feisty hunters.
  • Posted on: 08/31/2020

    Digital coupons find redemption in the stay-at-home economy

    Print and digital promotion activity declined in H1 2020 as brand manufacturers and retailers adjusted their coupon strategies in response to COVID-19. But reports of the death of FSIs are greatly exaggerated. Print coupons will still be with us post-pandemic. Old habits are hard to break and new ones take time to acquire. It will be a while before a brand manager doesn't use an FSI to boost sales of a product. And shoppers are not ready to forgo FSIs completely in favor of a digital offer.
  • Posted on: 08/26/2020

    Should grocers go full steam ahead on new store openings?

    Any new stores should incorporate the shopping lessons learned from COVID-19 in terms of salad bars, cashiers, cooking stations for food demos, robots, and so on. Otherwise, I would recommend investing in improving e-commerce before investing in new stores.
  • Posted on: 08/25/2020

    How should grocers prepare for a possible pandemic stockpiling redux?

    If there is a second wave of COVID-19 over the winter months, there surely will be panic stock-ups. Brands and grocers should prepare for that possibility now. Those that so will be the winners in the minds of shoppers. There will be no excuse for getting caught "flat-footed" as Mr. Tenser described.
  • Posted on: 08/24/2020

    COVID-19 will redefine the meaning of Christmas creep in 2020

    I was in a Kmart in Cleveland few years ago, when "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" was playing over loudspeaker. It was November before Thanksgiving. With this season's early holiday promotion, I might hear that tune in stores in October ---- before Halloween.
  • Posted on: 07/30/2020

    Is a drive-through-only store the shape of things to come for Wawa?

    A creative idea that will be embraced by some shoppers. Wawa will lose some impulse sales though. I'm not sure if that loss will be offset by the convenience of drive-through offered to some shoppers. Time will tell.
  • Posted on: 07/27/2020

    Will COVID-19 bludgeon Halloween sales?

    Candy makers are scrambling to develop creative promotions for Halloween during the coronavirus pandemic. But sadly, they won't be enough to offset a likely decline in sales compared to past Halloween seasons. I expect fewer trick or treaters at the door and more in-home parties where everybody will be wearing masks. How ironic.
  • Posted on: 07/21/2020

    Can Trader Joe’s shake off its racist branding tag?

    I think the brand names are lighthearted and not offensive in any way. I bet that a poll of Trader Joe's shoppers would reveal the same. However, these are tense times. The world will not end -- and neither will true racism -- if the brand names are changed. I don't predict any long-term damage to Trader Joe's.
  • Posted on: 07/15/2020

    Did Amazon just put its Go technology in a shopping cart?

    I just don't see this being a big success. Most shoppers won't want to bag their own groceries. It's as simple as that.

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